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Where have all the hedgehogs gone?

When was the last time you saw Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and her family in your garden? According to a recent survey, there’s a good chance it was over a year ago…

After a few false starts to spring, I’m slowly getting through the list of gardening jobs I set myself back in the bleak midwinter.

Alas, as soon as I tick jobs off the list, I’m finding a whole new set of things that need doing.

My chief problem now is the last panel of my neighbour’s fence has completely disintegrated, leaving a gaping hole in our boundary that the local cats and foxes have clearly been using as a thoroughfare/toilet.

With my neighbour highly unlikely to fix the issue, I’ve been wondering how best I can reinstate the boundary. But reading about the continuing decline of hedgehogs and how I’ve inadvertently contributed to their plight, I’m thinking I might just leave things be.

Hogs in peril

According to a recent survey, sightings of Britain’s favourite mammal have fallen again, with almost six in 10 people saying they haven’t seen one at all in the past year.

The figure is up from the 51% who said they had not seen a hedgehog in 2016, and 48% who did not see one at all in 2015.

It follow news that the UK hedgehog population has fallen by half since 2000 and it is estimated there are now less than a million compared to 30m in the 1950s.

And when I come to think of it, while I’ve seen an increase of greenfinches, long-tailed tits, squirrels and even parakeets and herons in my garden in the past year, I’ve seen neither hide nor spike of a hog.

What can we do?

In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen one since I replaced my fence with concrete gravel boards and posts a few years back. And there lies the problem, as more secure fencing is one of the reasons why hedgehogs are in decline.

So I’ll be leaving the gaping hole in my neighbour’s fence well alone and am now thinking I’ll widen a gap I’ve seen in my own fence to create a hedgehog highway. I’ll also be using organic slug pellets, researching wildlife-friendly shrubs (that also suit part shade – suggestions welcome) and erecting some bug hotels.

After all, help the wildlife and it will, in turn, help me.

Have you noticed a decline in visits by hedgehogs in your garden this year? Do you do anything to encourage them? Or, if you have them, do you do anything to help them? What other wildlife have you seen a decrease or increase of in your garden?

Barbara says:
6 May 2018

or fewer? I was taught that ‘fewer’ is used for quantity, for things that can be counted and ‘less’ for amount, or things that can’t be counted, or quality. I find that easy to remember, unfortunately, since it always jars then the words are used differently.

About the hedgehogs, I have never seen any in my garden in NW6.

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What concerns me most is the modern intensive agriculture, Duncan, particularly the widespread use of pesticides and weedkillers. These are non-specific and harmful to wildlife and the many insects and small animals that are so important. There has been focus on the decline in the bee population, but that’s just one example.

I have no idea if organic farming could feed our population but there is no doubt we need to minimise use of chemicals. At present, all that seems to matter is money. Obviously minimising food waste and moving away from modern farming methods that gradually decrease the fertility of soils are also relevant.

I don’t know either but I doubt whether old-fashioned farming could ever feed the world in the current way.

There are a lot of greedy nations – obesity is evidence of that – where they (we) eat far too much and throw far too much away. So a lot of scope, when things get tough, to eat just what is needed and not be wasteful. A lot of countries are already adept at this – or far worse of course.

We also produce a lot of food inefficiently. Growing grain to feed to animals to produce meat for example. Better to use the grain directly.

However in the UK we have much scope, when the chips are down (so to speak) to revert to the Dig for Victory that seemingly helped us through WW2. Lots of unused land to grow food organically.

What I would like to see is not a knee-jerk reaction but working towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Integrated pest management, for example, can cut down on the amount of chemical pesticides needed. Eating less meat will help without becoming vegetarian or vegan. Many of our environmental problems are related to population growth. At one time, having lots of children was needed because of poor survival rates but it’s no longer necessary to have several kids.

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Elaine Symonds says:
6 May 2018

There are a lot less hedgehogs in gardens these days, I help in a hedgehog rescue centre and what I see has happened to some poor hedgehogs it’s so upsetting. A lot of people forget about those wicked strimmers, the device take off hedgehogs noses, legs and cuts into their skin, which then gets infected, flies’ lay eggs in the wound, which then turns into maggots, and the hedgehog then dies an agonising death if not found. I dread hearing someone using a strimmer. LOOK BEFORE YOU USE A STRIMMER!! And another thing people driving cars at night purposely aim for hedgehogs when the animal is crossing the road. PLEASE LET THE HEDGEHOG CROSS THE ROAD OR PUT THEM SOMEWHERE SAFE.

Phil says:
6 May 2018

I have not seen any hedgehogs, dead or alive, for sometime. More than a year.

What I have seen are a lot more badgers. Sighting one used to be a rarity but roadkill are becoming quite common and I frequently see and hear live specimens.

Some people think there’s a connection.

My son has installed a hedgehog house in his garden where food is laid every evening, ranging from mealworms, sunflower hearts, a mixture of special dried hedgehog food (purchased online), or as an alternative, dried cat food, essentially white meat based only.

I have spoken to him this morning and he reports seeing regular nightly visits from his lounge via a special camera he set up to view hedgehog activity in his garden. The house is specially constructed to keep cats out. He also reports seeing a few hedgehogs on his evening walks with his newly acquired rescued greyhound.

There is quite a large selection of attractive hedgehog houses available you can buy online and I am seriously thinking of purchasing one as my son never finds it necessary to use pellets, proof that it is the most natural remedy to keep the slugs away.

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Don’t you have hedgehogs in Scotland Duncan?

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Unfortunately due to increase in the number of badgers in my area, all the hedgehogs have disappeared.
Maybe we have to seriously consider reducing the number of badgers. They have no natural predator in the uk and are increasing in numbers.

Badgers’ natural predator seems to be the car. I wonder whether culling our natural species is right, or whether we let nature take its course. I see a lot of hedgehogs have been/are being exported from the Hebrides after they “escaped” from a garden and then built up a huge colony that was said to be threatening the wading bird population. Having removed a lot of hedgehogs to the mainland (anywhere near you, duncan?) the birds are still in decline. So perhaps we don’t really know what we are doing. It cost somewhere near £1000 per hedgehog to trap and remove them. A good use of public money? http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22093131,

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We saw 2 hedgehogs last year, the first for several years.

I think slug pellets and lack of thoroughfares are mostly to blame for their decline. We have seen them tucking into peanuts next to badgers and foxes and stood guard until they go their respective ways and haven’t seen the badgers take more than a cursory glance at them.

Shed says:
9 May 2018

I had five in my garden last year, and currently have at least two. I’ve put out housing for them now, have a feeding station and started a wildlife area in a corner of the garden to encourage them to stay.
There has been an increase in hedgehog numbers associated with the badger culling regions (of which we are not one).

My back garden is completely surrounded by close-boarded fencing, so I have not seen any hedgehogs, just lots of birds and the odd squirrel. I cannot remember seeing any in the front garden, though there is nothing to prevent them visiting. 🙁

A small drilled hole big enough to let the hedgehogs in and the cats out would suffice. A hog house with food would entice them in and rid you of all your slimy Gastropod nocturnal visitors.

Thanks Beryl. If one of my neighbours caught me doing this she would not speak to me again. Last year she overreacted when she saw a rat in her garden and instructed me to be vigilant. The fence behind the trees at the bottom of the garden is hidden behind trees and bushes so I could make a hole there and if anyone comes to visit I could arrange accommodation. One problem would be that it would encourage squirrels, which do manage to scale the fences. I don’t seem to have a problem with ghastlypods, possibly because I try to avoid growing plants that they would attack.

I am awaiting delivery of a starter pack, consisting of house with room for hoglets and viewing facility, plus feed bowl, bedding and food supply! Will keep you posted!

PS you are entitled to drill a hole in your own fence Wavechange without fear of upsetting the neighbours. Most fences belonging to the house are situated on the left, but it may be wise to check this on your deeds, usually marked with an inverted ‘T’.

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I’ve made a couple of holes at the base of the fence at the bottom of the garden. Unlike the stout fences to left and right this is thin and not in very good condition.

When I was a motorcyclist I used to rescue hedgehogs from country roads. Motorcycling gloves are ideal for protection.

Before next year I plan to build some bird boxes.

The law does not state that Duncan AFAIK. It may be custom and practice but the deeds hopefully will provide the absolute answer.

You will appreciate brick and stone walls might exist without any supports hence custom and practice if the deeds are silent on the matter. And practice might mean they are treated as a party wall.

I once read a lease where the outside of the window glass belonged to the management committee whilst the rest belonged to the flat owner. I have read lots of leases.

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I would imagine that would apply in an older building where secondary double glazing had been installed.

Sounds like a bit of a pane. 🙂 Meanwhile back to hedgehogs, it’s obviously important not to harm them, so if building accommodation, avoid any wood that may have been treated in any way. It’s well established that slug pellets can kill hedgehogs, presumably as a result of eating poisoned slugs, but weedkiller including lawn weedkillers could harm the creatures we want to protect.

When my last two fence panels were installed adjacent to the patio I was given a choice as to which side I preferred facing my garden.

You can spend quite a considerable sum on the choice of panels but I always find the posts will rot long before the panels. The new fence will only be 3ft high with concrete posts, with a couple of 6 footers to allow some privacy on the patio.

I hope to place the hedgehog house under the hedge on the other side which I grew as the owner continues to refuse to replace the original fence that blew down. As there is an ornamental iron gate at the rear entrance to the garden the hedgehogs will have no trouble squeezing through at the base.

My above post was in answer to Patricks at 18:31.

You could remove a little soil from below the fence panel to make a run. I expect once discovered the animals would maintain it.

I dislike intensely these close-boarded 2m high flimsy wooden fences. One new neighbour installed these to replace a wire fence, and immediately curtailed conversations with other neighbours as well as blocking a view. They blow down (part did) and damage plants in the process. But nothing you can do. I note some natural runs have appeared below the panels so wildlife has dealt with the obstruction. I’ve planted fruit trees and shrubs to hid the wall of orange timber.

Bah humbug.:-(

That’s what I did, Malcolm, as well as snapping bits of decaying panel off the bottom. I’m not keen on high fences either, but many like their privacy.

If its not too late Malcolm, why not install a camera near the patio doors and keep us posted! You could be in for a few surprises!

I cannot find any hedgehog cams showing activity but here is a short video made using an infrared camera, showing a hedgehog in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye_dsWpK1oU

Brilliant Wavechange, many thanks for the link.

I saved one today he was on a busy roundabout at about 10am this morning.I’ve taken him to our local wild life rescue centre on closer insecpection he has a mass on his tummy hopefully after the vets seen him and diagnosed what the mass is it can be removed and he can return to the wild.xx

Chris says:
9 May 2018

Stopped using slug pellets in my slug free garden and the hedgehogs returned including one which snored during the day in a nest amongst the flowers in the flower bed.

Carol says:
11 May 2018

Mine are back & cleaning up the slugs !! Also have a hedgehog highway between neighbours fences !! Poor things need help would be sad to lose them !

Wilm Roche says:
24 May 2018

Re WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEDGEHOGS GONE? I lived in Wiltshire for 18 years. We had a large garden (third of an acre) which was a haven for much wildlife including several hedgehogs. We gardened organically, never used pesticides or slug pellets, and also had a pond with frogs and newts; there was plenty food and drink for all.
One year unbeknown to us a badger moved in. The badger made it’s den under a shed at the very back of our garden. We didn’t know it was there to begin with. One by one the badger ate all the hedgehogs that visited our garden including their young. We were utterly horrified and very distraught at finding the carnage. We wondered if a stray dog had gotten into our garden and attacked the hedgehogs, then found the badgers den and realised when it was too late that the badger was the culprit. We learnt afterwards that the badger is the ONLY wild predator of hedgehogs, their powerful big front paws can easily prise open the hedgehog when it’s gone into a defensive ball shape mode. So much is done to protect badgers. People think they are cute and sweet when they are not. Badgers are strong, powerful killing machines with hedgehogs firmly on their menu. We eventually moved and the same happened in the next garden we owned. We never got to see the hedgehogs in the new house but would occasionally detect their poo and markings around our garden. A few years in, we then had badgers coming into our garden and soon after that the hedgehogs and all evidence of them completely disappeared. We’ve been told that badgers will only kill and eat hedgehogs when desperate, but twice across two gardens simultaneously this happened, with the badgers killing and eating all the hedgehogs. We need to look and evaluate what we can do to help the hedgehogs more. Lessening the badger population would certainly help.

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